Politics

Colin Kaepernick responds to Nike controversy by doubling down and Ted Cruz responds

Colin Kaepernick is no Frederick Douglass.

In his first public communication since causing an uproar over Nike canceling sneakers with the Betsy Ross flag, former NFL-quarterback-turned-Nike-spokesman Colin Kaepernigk tweeted a quote from a speech Frederick Douglass gave on Independence Day in 1852—nearly a decade before the Civil War.

“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? This Fourth of July is yours, not mine…There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.”
– Frederick Douglass


Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), an escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author, public speaker, and one of the most important men of the 19th century, fought relentlessly for the end of slavery before and during the Civil War.

The speech, entitled “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” is a lengthy and brilliant speech wherein Douglass extolled the virtues and vision of the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence, while heavily criticizing the evil contradiction of slavery.

“No one was ever a more critical reader of the Constitution, or a more compelling advocate of its virtues, than Douglass,” wrote the New Yorker last year.

Following Kaepernick’s tweet, Sen. Ted Cruz [R-TX] provided context to the Douglass quote in a series of tweets.

“You quote a mighty and historic speech by the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, but, without context, many modern readers will misunderstand,” Cruz tweeted. “Two critical points:”

Cruz then went on to tweet:

(1) This speech was given in 1852, before the Civil War, when the abomination of slavery still existed. Thanks to Douglass and so many other heroes, we ended that grotesque evil and have made enormous strides to protecting the civil rights of everybody.

(2) Douglass was not anti-American; he was, rightly and passionately, anti-slavery. Indeed, he concluded the speech as follows:

“Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country.

“There are forces in operation, which must inevitably, work the downfall of slavery. ‘The arm of the Lord is not shortened,’ and the doom of slavery is certain.

“I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from ‘the Declaration of Independence,’ the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.”

Let me encourage everyone, READ THE ENTIRE SPEECH; it is powerful, inspirational, and historically important in bending the arc of history towards justice: https://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/2945

It is doubtful that Kaepernick will respond to Cruz since Kaepernick’s chief strategy since beginning his flag-kneeling activism seems to only be to create controversy, rather than to engage in robust debate.

In sum, Colin Kaepernick is no Frederick Douglass.

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